Creating My Own Email List

Ever since this site first went online, I wanted to create my own email list so that I could notify people of updates, and share the occasional topical commentary. It wasn't until I stumbled upon the great services at ListBot that it became practical. I immediately put a link to the subscription page on my essays page, but I also wanted to notify people that the list existed.

I had mixed emotions about putting together the extensive list of email addresses to make the announcement. I felt a little like the very spammers that I've been cursing ever since they started invading my in box. They must have some pretty serious software to help them out, because it was quite a project for me. I've saved virtually every mail file that's ever been sent to me from my web site. Taking an enormous mailbox and transforming it into a list of email addresses was rather daunting. I tried to copy and paste each address one at a time, but after the first dozen or so I knew that just wasn't going to work. The only programming resource I have available to me is the legacy mainframe we use at my job. I uploaded the entire mailbox to the mainframe as a text file, and wrote a quick & dirty program in our 4GL language to parse it and extract the email addresses. I then had to download the extracted list back to the desktop, and load it up in Excel to sort it and manually remove duplicates. When I was done I had just a little over 1050 addresses.

I still had to paste them into an outgoing mail file. The problem there was that one single invalid address would make the whole list undeliverable. I broke the list down into smaller segments, scanned them visually, one by one, looking for invalid formats, and then wound up sending out the same mail file to each sub-list. At least I had the wherewithal to put the addresses in the BCC slot, so that people didn't get massive email headers. I hope you all appreciated that.

I was afraid that my service provider was going to send me a nasty-gram for spamming, but he didn't. In the end about 10% of the messages were returned as undeliverable. I was expecting it to be much worse. Some people returned terse messages like "Remove me from your list!" I guess they didn't read the part where I said to ignore the message and I'd never email them again. One guy said something was simultaneously derisive and supportive. Here's his note:

Dear Toaph,thanks for your mail.I still remember you...  It was about 2 years ago, when I contacted you. Iasked you, If we could meet fot a photoshooting. After I have answered aquestionaire, I never heard from you again.So - I am sorry, that I have to say this now - I got the impression of you,that you are only looking for profit and I also sensed a little bit ofarrogance. Forgive me, if I am wrong, but this is my impression about you.So I am sorry, but I am absolutely not interrested to be on your mailinglist - plese delete me from there.Thank you !I wish you all the best for your future.Greetings from germany!Peter

Some people responded with comments like, "Thank you for adding me to your list." That made me suspect that they didn't read the instructions and manually subscribe themselves. But I'm not going to send out another flurry of emails, especially with the people saying not to email them anymore.

In the few days that followed, the number of subscribers grew steadily. It's interesting to once again have some kind of metric regarding the number of viewers/readers that I have. I used to have a counter on my page, which was very intersting, but it kept getting reset back to zero. Rather than pester my service provider about it, I just deleted it and allowed the level of traffic on my site to remain a mystery.

The first message that I send out will be to announce this very commentary.

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